The 2018 annual meeting in Prague will mark the first time ICA holds its conference sessions across two hotels. The ICA executive office and I have fielded a number of curious and bemused queries about this. So with our site visit behind us, below is some information that will shed light on the matter and provide guidance as we all plan for Prague.
Why two hotels?
ICA’s conference attendance has grown significantly since our hotel contract with Hilton Prague was signed more than 6 years ago. This increase in attendance derives not only from a natural growth in intellectual research interests that have attracted new members, but also from innovative ways in which Divisions and Interest Groups (D/IGs) have accommodated a greater number of submissions and presentations.
In reviewing attendance figures and planning for next year’s conference, which now includes 32 D/IGs, ICA has signed revised contracts to use all the meeting rooms at the Hilton Prague and the Hilton Prague Old Town.
What’s the difference between the two hotels?
The larger of the two properties, the Hilton Prague, is a larger conference-style hotel with nearly 800 rooms. The Hilton Prague Old Town is smaller, with approximately 300 rooms, and has the feel of a boutique hotel. The sleeping-room rate at both properties will be 3900 CZK ($172 USD as of this writing) for a single and 4300 CZK ($190 USD) for a double; both rates include breakfast.
ICA has contracted with several overflow hotels located within easy walking distance of both Hiltons. Should the need arise, ICA will continue to work with local hotels to secure additional rooms for conference attendees.
What does a conference with two “main hotels” mean logistically? Will I need to walk back and forth between hotels?
Yes, but the extent depends on your research interests.
The 2018 scheduling model takes into account the fact that ICA now has 32 Divisions and Interest Groups that vary greatly. Instead of a handful of D/IGs being assigned for the entire conference to the smaller Old Town property (which would have implications for sleeping rooms, receptions, and business meetings), all D/IGs will, for one day of ICA’s 4-day conference, have their sessions scheduled there. Thus for the numerous attendees who follow sessions only in one D/IG, they can plan to spend one full day at the Old Town property. Attendees who track multiple D/IGs can expect to do a bit more commuting.
We are working with program planners to identify their most closely intellectually aligned D/IGs. We plan to use this feedback to schedule these clusters of D/IGs in the same day at the Hilton Prague Old Town.
How far apart are the two hotels, really?
Travel between the two hotels is not at all burdensome. Our first walk between the two properties (with some waiting at stoplights) came in at 12 minutes. Subsequent walks took slightly longer as we made note of the supermarkets, drugstores, and other shops we wanted to step into before leaving town. Conference attendees also can take mass transportation if they wish; the two Hiltons are a single Metro stop or two tram stops apart.
I’ve heard people mention space issues in Prague. How will space impact me?
Compared with San Diego this year, our Prague conference will certainly be challenged for space. Not only will we be operating fully out of two conference hotels, but within those hotels, we will have fewer rooms than we typically have at our disposal. In addition, many of the meeting rooms are smaller, which means conference attendees can expect a tight squeeze in some sessions. We will be using information from program planners and our head counts in San Diego to make everyone as comfortable as possible and to maximize our use of the space.
Space constraints in Prague also will force us to rethink how poster sessions and the exhibit hall traditionally have been set up. Given these constraints, we will be experimenting with a new digital format for hybrid high-density sessions (details will be included in your D/IG’s call for papers).
What do I need to know about booking my room?
As in recent years, sleeping rooms within ICA’s room block are at a premium, so conference attendees should make their reservation as soon as the room block opens in mid-January. This year, ICA will be setting up a webpage that will allow members to search for and book their conference housing according to specific criteria (e.g., dates of stay, number of guests, room type).
ICA’s executive office will be monitoring the room block to secure additional rooms at nearby hotels as needed. Why as needed? Because contracts commit ICA to a certain number of rooms (and revenue for the hotel), overbooking sleeping rooms can cost the association tens of thousands of dollars in attrition fees.
NOTE: Differently abled individuals should contact Laura Sawyer, ICA Executive Director, immediately so that she may set aside an accessible room (e.g., with roll-in shower) for you to reserve.
What about socializing and sightseeing?
Both Hiltons offer their share of spaces in which to socialize.
The Hilton Prague has a number of such spaces: a 24-hour cafe in the main lobby that serves food, wine, and limited spirits; the more informal, pub-like Zest bar; and Cloud 9, a bar and lounge that offers tapas, drinks, and excellent views of the city. The hotel also houses a number of other restaurants, but for the quickest lunchtime service, we recommend venturing out to the numerous eateries nearby or grabbing a bite from the lunch buffet in the lobby.
Right off its 1920s-style lobby, the Hilton Prague Old Town offers attendees a bar/lounge as well as a restaurant, Zinc, which serves Asian-inspired European cuisine. An easy walk from the Hilton Prague Old Town are scores of restaurants spanning numerous cuisines and a large shopping mall (with many, many eateries). Also within walking distance of the Hilton Prague Old Town are Charles Square, Henry’s Bell Tower, and Prague’s famous astronomical clock, which served as the inspiration for this year’s conference logo.
Outside of the conference, ICA is planning a number of social activities. As referenced in our postconference survey, we are crafting a tour program that will include local venues as well as a possible post-ICA trip to Budapest and/or nearby spa towns. We will be working with our local host Irena Reifova (Charles U Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC) on other things to do around town. Rest assured we will release this list well before spring!
Are there any visa issues with attending Prague?
Because ICA conference attendees hail from all corners of the globe, we recommend checking with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic to see what documentation is needed for travel to Prague. For US-based attendees who might be concerned with their ability to return to the US after the conference, ICA once again will be offering consultation services with its visa-specialist attorney. Requests for advice/inquiries should be directed to ICA Executive Director Laura Sawyer.